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Typically, whenever I travel to a country I've never been before I try to read both historical and fictional books related to my destination. This summer I took my wife and kids to Malta. This book seemed to fit the bill for a good airplane read. Not too deep or nuanced, but good historical perspective on the Siege of Malta.
The problem was it was just a bit light. It reminded me of a lazy Ken Follett. And I'm not a big Follett fan. It didn't even begin to approach great historical fiction (Patrick O'Brian, Robert Graves, Hilary Mantel). It wasn't literary and when it tried to be literary the voice ended up sounding like a 20th century agnostic and not a 15th century skeptic. But still, it did provide a good basic understanding of the siege and wasn't overly melodramatic (oh, it did have its melodrama for sure...). Anyway, it didn't inspire me to stop reading nor inspire me to hunt out more Simon Scarrow books.
9 of 11 people found this review helpful
What disappointed you about Sword and Scimitar?
I understand that not everybody has a religious faith. I understand that some people are happy being atheists. What I do not understand is why does Scarrow want to inject his unbelief into the main character and make us see the world through his own rejection of Christianity. These events did not take place during the Enlightenment, but during one of the most religious centuries ever: why not set aside your own bias, Mr. Scarrow, and keep your atheism to yourself?
What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?
The best part was the battle for Fort St. Elmo: a very tragic episode in the whole siege, indeed. The least interesting was the convoluted plot to get that mythical testament of Henry VIII...boring!
Would you be willing to try another one of Jonathan Keeble’s performances?
As long as I do not have to hear him play a female character in falsetto, EVER AGAIN!
What character would you cut from Sword and Scimitar?
All those mentioned as background characters back in England: who cares?
Any additional comments?
Overall, meh! There are so many wonderful novels about the Great Siege: this has to be the least exciting of all. I will NOT give another shot at any of Scarrow's novels.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
As with Simon Scarrow books, he keeps you entertained with he stories. The plot flows effortly through the book making it difficult to stop listening, or reading. Sword and Scimitar was my first venture into Audible books, and will not be my last if you have more authors as good.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
It's a difficult balance to maintain a strong story line and, at the same time, establish a convincing historical context. In Sword and Scimitar I'm not totally convinced that the momentous historic events in Malta in 1565 are really given the Olympian status they deserve. After all it addresses the seemingly inexorable expansion of the Turkish empire and the last stand of the Knights of St John and the Maltese people who found themselves as the inadvertent rearguard of Christian Europe. Add in a touch of Elizabethan intrigue and a tragic hero then the result should be assured.
However, the focus on the angst of the principal character, for me, detracts from the events and reduces what could have easily been a five star novel into simply a good book. A lighter touch on the personal and a bit more of the titanic struggle during the summer of 1565 would have improved the balance. It almost seemed that the trials of the central character and, to a lesser extent, those around him, ended up as a distraction rather than a focus where events and story line would interweave. The story line was a tad predictable and had a bit of a feel of being artificial.
It's a pity because the subject matter is unusual whilst being momentous and the link between Tudor England and the Mediterranean island was well conceived and worked. Don't get me wrong, it's a good book and, with some massaging of the personal issues, would make a great film. However, I can't but feel that such a powerful structure and a fantastic concept was not fully developed in the final execution.
I liked the narration in the main although I'm not sure that the understanding of Oliver's character was helped by the tone of voice.
Good but not gripping.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful